Hawaii nurses prepare for the worst as COVID cases rise

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Traveling nurses have helped ease the burden on staffing shortages in Hawaii, but health care professionals are distraught that the rapid rise in COVID cases will once again overwhelm their capacity and steal healthcare away from those who need it.

Now they’re in the beginning phases of preparing for what care could be like in a worst-case scenario.

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“It’s scary because we’re at the verge,” Hawaii Nurses Association President Daniel Ross said. “The ICU remains pretty full, the hospital, itself, remains pretty full. We’re getting by.”

Those are not the words you want to hear from hospital staff if you or your loved ones are in need.

“If the staff of the hospital are overworked, that means that they’ve got more people they’re dealing with, they’re going to not catch those things as fast as before, and those minutes can mean everything,” Ross said.

Plans are currently being constructed for how bare-to-the-bone care can become if staff, space and equipment are stretched too thin.

“We’re moving to team nursing techniques and things like that where you’ll have lesser trained nurses, not even nurses, sometimes with just assisted personnel working. So normally where you have one-to-one ICU nurse with the patient, you might have that ICU nurse have four patients, for example.” Ross said.

Why is the care so difficult for COVID patients? For one, it is a painstaking process just to get geared up.

“Putting on the gear, taking off the gear, each and every time you go in the room you have to do it methodically and carefully so you don’t cross-contaminate and potentially get yourself ill or take it to somebody else,” Ross said.

Ross added that those who question the authenticity of the pandemic and accuse hospital staff of lying about capacity are upsetting.

“Somebody’s been out there posting stuff that’s not that they’ve been talking about, and they’re saying it’s all a lie. Queen’s is half full, and it has the nurses so angry. Because it’s not a lie. It’s true, it’s happening.” Ross said.

As Hawaii sits in the thick of hurricane season, any kind of unforeseen disaster could bring the system to its knees.

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“We’re already, kind of, we’re in a disaster. So if we had a natural disaster on top of it, I don’t see how we’d execute it,” Ross said.

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